Rich in Tennessee history, Natchez Trace Parkway was established as a unit of the National Park Service in 1938. Today however, visitors can experience the 10,000 miles of scenic beauty and recreational opportunities this National Scenic Byway offers by driving, biking, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and camping. Also called the “Old Natchez Trace”, the parkway is a 444-mile recreational road and scenic drive through three states. The trail begins in Natchez Mississippi, winds northward through central Tennessee, and ends in Nashville Tennessee. Access to the parkway is limited, with more than fifty access points in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.
The Natchez Trace trail was most heavily used from 1785 to 1820 by “Kaintuck” boatmen floating down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to market their goods. Once their merchandise was depleted their boats were broken down and sold for lumber, and the merchants would then return to their northern homelands by walking or riding on horseback using this historic trail. The Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian Tribes share its rich history and continue to be resolute in preserving their strong connection.
There are 65 miles of national scenic trails within the Trace. The 58-mile Fly – Water Valley – Williamsport – Hampshire Loop Route appeals to bicyclists, motorcyclists and drivers. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, with small and large hills, some topping bluffs that overlook the Duck River Valley; this 25-mile Natchez Trace section includes five of the Top Thirty Natchez Trace sites. https://www.natcheztracetravel.com/natchez-trace-tennessee/loop-routes/fly-watervalley-williamsport-hampshire.html
Hiking Trails and self-guided nature walks can be found along the entire length of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Some of the short walks take you through natural wonders and preserved sections of the Old Trace. Three sections are accessible by hiking or horseback riding. https://www.natcheztracetravel.com/types-of-trace-stops/natchez-trace-hiking-trails.html
Natchez Trace State Park offers many options for the equine enthusiast. Camp and horseback ride 250-miles of public use riding trails when visiting Wrangler Camp. Natchez Trace Wrangler Camp is located 2.2 miles south of I-40 on Hwy. 114. The Bucksnort Wrangler Camp features 62 campsites with full hook-ups, one camping cabin, two bathhouses and a dump station. The campground is open year-round with some exceptions after December first. http://tnstateparks.com/parks/campground/natchez-trace
For those visitors interested in spending more time on the Parkway, fishing is a great way to spend an afternoon. Fishing is allowed in lakes and streams along the Natchez Trace Parkway and fishing regulations vary by state. The Parkway provides access to other state and federal agencies with more fishing opportunities. A few places to try are listed below.
- Natchez State Park (milepost 8.1)
- Ross Barnett Reservoir (milepost 105.6)
- Davis Lake (milepost 243.1)
- Bay Springs Lake (milepost 293.4)
- Tishomingo State Park (milepost 304.5)
- J.P. Coleman State Park (milepost 320)
The Natchez Trace Parkway is open all year, day and night. Operating hours for information centers and some locations do vary. Severe weather resulting in washouts and downed trees can cause temporary road closures. Questions about road condition should be directed to the Parkway’s visitor center by calling 1-800-305-7417.
Regardless of your travel mode or the measure of time you want to spend, Natchez Trace State Park is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the relaxing wonders of nature, and escape the inherent rat race of the work-a-day world. Here is a site that will help you plan your trip. https://www.nps.gov/natr/planyourvisit/index.htm
…and a brief preview of the sights and recreational opportunities it offers.